If You Understand This One Thing about Software Developer Job Posts, Chances Are, You Won’t Need a Professional Resume Writer
One afternoon, HR emailed me a resume for a Frontend Developer position. The name in the email sounded familiar to me. After opening the resume, I could recall that the applicant has sent me the same resume at least five times in the past two years. I had a quick look at the resume, and concluded that the skills in the resume have nothing to do with our position. Upon rejecting the resume, I wondered when the applicant would send me his unchanged resume once more.
The Job Hunt Model
Software developer careers should normally be treated like a business. When you send your application package, you are in the business of advertising your services.
Your application package is your entry ticket to the first interview. In order to get a chance to participate in more interviews, you can do one of the following two things:
- Send out more applications per unit time,
- Make your application more appealing to the companies you target.
In the introduction, you read about a software developer who most likely did the first approach. He sent me and most likely hundreds of other companies his unchanged application package every three months. His success rate must be very low.
Some people have automatized this process, and have even written programs that automatically detect promising employers and persistently bomb them with their resumes.
When targeting the masses, many people figure out that they have a hard time passing job interviews, and they typically target lower starting salaries. This is one of the reasons why books on cracking coding interviews become bestsellers on Amazon. Many people think that they just need to send out more applications, educate themselves on passing interviews, and things will be all right.
This approach is highly inefficient. When targeting the masses, companies that are interested in your services often either seek for generalists, or they don’t match your specialization. Getting enough first interviews is the wrong KPI for measuring success. You have to get the right first interviews.
In this article, we won’t deal with tricks to increase the number of application packages sent out per unit time. Increasing your response rate is a lot more lucrative in the long run.
Cultures Influence Resume Format
Different cultures pass different resume writing habits forward.
In India for example, many people write six to ten page long resumes, detailing every detail of their accomplishments, including copy of their certifications, signed letters of recommendation, their GPA, name of their college etc. All these points are understandable if you know the cultural background influencing this format. However, a European recruiter will hardly ever look up the prestige associated with an Indian tech college, they may just note the average-looking GPA. Most European recruiters may miss the fact that an average result at a top 3 tech college in India is associated with higher prestige than a flawless GPA at a no-name college.
In the European Union, some software developers still think that the Europass resume format makes sense for IT positions. Many sections in the Europass CV make no sense from the perspective of a software developer. The format also wastes a lot of space. Whenever I see the Europass logo, I try to remind myself to focus on content instead of the mistake to give the candidate a chance for an objective review.
Good resumes can often be summarized in one to three pages. Only a few exceptions apply. You should not be writing a book about yourself. It is possible to attach appendices to your application package, but the resume itself should only contain things that are relevant to your employer.
Make Your Resume More Attractive
Your resume should not be about you. Your resume should be about the benefits your employer will get by hiring you. At first glance, this seems to be a paradox statement, as resumes are typically about our accomplishments. However, look at the success rate of a resume describing every little detail of your employment history. The more you write about the technologies you used, the less potential employers feel that you are the right choice for them.
Avoid explicit influence, and use narrative influence. Explicit influence is when you brag about how smart, cool, or professional you are, how valuable asset you are to the company. Implicit or narrative influence is when you tell a story that other people narrate in a way that they come up with a conclusion that you are smart, cool, and professional. In practice, instead of writing about seven years of relevant experience, you should describe tough technological challenges that meet business goals.
Focus on finding your specialization, and see your resume through the perspective of the path leading to your specialization. Eliminate unrelated content. Less is more. You don’t have to detail that you know fifteen programming languages. Eliminate most technologies from your resume that are not needed for your current job, unless they are necessary for describing one of your accomplishments.
If you are a generalist right now, make sure you read the next section about tailoring your application. Generalists need this skill more than anyone else. Emphasize your history with skills you need for the job you are targeting. Reduce or eliminate irrelevant content.
Describe the problems you contributed to. Add some suspense by writing about a challenge you have overcome, such as bringing down query response time of our reporting data from 5 seconds to 0.3 seconds using a mixture of SQL and NoSQL and semi-structured data to improve user experience and increase retention rate by 1200%.
Beyond writing about your job title, describe what your job was about from the perspective of your employer. For instance, a Java Team Lead does one thing. A Team Lead of Java developers who encourages knowledge transfer by facilitating content and open technological discussions is seen on another level.
In the age of social media, your resume may contain links. Your blog, your portfolio, your GitHub account, your side-projects are all useful additions. Continuously update your LinkedIn profile, and link it in your resume. If people are interested in you, they will look you up anyway.
A technique most people never do is you can record a video of themselves, and place the link in their resume. You would be amazed how many people open the video. Note that if you have never recorded videos, it may even take you half a day to record two-three minutes. This is absolutely normal. You will get better with each attempt.
You have received more than enough information to increase your chances of getting hired. If this advice seems very hard for you to implement on your own, the services of a professional resume writer may be useful for you. You don’t need a resume writer to get a great job, but their contribution will help on some level.
Bear in mind though that you will have some work to do even after getting your professionally written resume. This is the last and most important step in your application process.
Tailor Your Application Package
No professionally written resumes can be used universally. Your employer reviews your application from the perspective of how useful your services are to them.
If your specialization is well defined, you may get away with little fine-tuning. If you are a generalist, you have to prove that your services are beneficial to your employer, and you are not just randomly applying to random job posts.
Specialization does not end with your resume. Your cover letter should also contain relevant information about your motivation. The format “your requirements — my skills” typically works with basic applications, as even a non-technical hiring manager can compare contents of two unordered lists and see if they match.
It makes sense to add a vision of what benefits you can bring to the company. Read their blog, or their press releases, and relate to one of their stories. Indicate that you have made some research on the company. Research typically takes up to half an hour, and you often double or triple your chances. If you have experience in the industry your company is in, companies hire you with higher confidence. After all, if you were in ad-tech, many concepts will be familiar to you, and your suggestions will be worth more on business level. Your cover letter should always mention these business connections.
I personally worked on an affiliation platform. When I applied for a position in an ad-tech company, I pointed this connection out. This way, I managed to let my recruiters know that they don’t have to explain to me what the CPC, CPM etc. metrics are.
If you are targeting a software developer position, make sure code examples relevant to the position you are applying for are reachable in your application package. If you don’t have any code examples, don’t hide behind the excuse that “your company does not allow you to use their code”. Create one small side-project, make it accessible on GitHub, and let the company know that “Due to lack of relevant code examples, I created a small app so that you can get a sample on my coding style. Feel free to review it, and let me know if you have any questions.”
Tailoring your application is often more important than having a great generic resume. This is the main reason why a professional resume writer is not an ultimate solution to all your problems, unless you want to hire someone for each type of position.
In the 21st Century, marketing your services will become increasingly important. Many jobs will not exist in the form they are now. Many developers become freelancers, and work remotely these days. Others travel the world, and apply for lucrative positions locally.
Writing a great resume is the first step towards marketing yourself properly. Respect the point of view of the company that wants to hire you, and make your resume emphasize what they can gain with you instead of bragging about your skills and years of experience. Use narrative influence instead of stating explicitly that you are a valuable asset.
Tailor your application to each company you are applying for. Make sure you include your research on them, and point out any business connections. Make your relevant experience stand out, and put less emphasis on skills in your accomplishments and challenges that are not relevant to your current position.
You would be amazed if you knew how beneficial this mindset is. Even though you spend a lot more time on each company, you will eventually spend a lot less time in total on interviewing, completing coding tasks, and talking to the HR department of many companies. You can also charge a higher salary if the company feels that they are interested in getting you on board. Develop this interest by preparing an application package addressed directly to them.
If you are interested in comparing the tailored approach to the generalist approach, follow the application process of two software developers in this case study.